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How to innovate when failure isn’t an option

Andy Martiniello

Imagine you’re the head of an innovation team in one of the world’s leading aerospace companies. Your job is to innovate on a mandate to both connect and protect people, to explore outer space, and to provide life-saving supplies to those in need. Failure, it would seem, is not an option.

Chris Lindener, Founder and Global Head of Airbus Scale is both a seasoned corporate innovator and successful entrepreneur.  Which means he is no stranger to both the challenges of exploring new business models that can scale, and connecting them back to the core business of a large enterprise.


To accomplish their sizable goals and stay focused on the future, Chris and his team knew that they needed to challenge the status quo.  The business would have to take bigger bets and leverage measured risk in order to create a repeatable process for exploring new ideas.  This is what we would refer to as operating in the “Explore” side of the Innovation Portfolio.

Long time proponents and users of Stratgeyzer’s tools and methodologies, Chris and the team were keen to see how Airbus Scale could apply Strategyzer’s Discovery Program to meet their needs. 

The Discovery Program is designed to take a cohort of teams through the process of alignment, ideation, design, testing, decision making and compelling presentations to senior leaders and investment boards.  The objective of this program is to implement a repeatable process that helps participants:

  • Search for business models that can scale.
  • Replace opinions with evidence, via clear and specific experimentation. 
  • Make better decisions on when to persevere, pivot or shelve an idea.
  • Embrace failure as a key ingredient for success!  When teams fall in love with their idea, they run the risk of ignoring the evidence coming from the market, thus misdirecting precious time and resources.

Starting with 368 projects, Airbus Scale worked with Strategyzer to first pare down that list to 9 high potential ideas, focusing on ways to add diversity and go beyond only building aircraft.  

This exercise helped them establish a refined way of down-selecting ideas, saving time and money.  It also helped highlight that Portfolio Management is key. The danger of too few ideas is that teams can easily fall in love, pushing them to support a losing proposition for too long and trying to avoid failure.

Working closely with the Strategyzer team of coaches, and building on their existing processes,  Airbus Scale was able to make a real impact on their innovation framework.  Emphasizing the importance of testing, the team increased their comfort level with speaking to customers and therefore strengthened their approach to experimentation. 

While the details of the projects are proprietary and not to be shared publicly, the program helped validate which ideas they should invest in for further exploration, and which ones they should stop pursuing.

So, in the end, the team was reminded that failure is indeed not an option…it’s a necessity.  They were reminded of the value of killing low value projects fast or, as Chris stated;

      failure is always a good experience, if you take something out of it”.


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Testing Business Ideas Virtual Masterclass
Testing Business Ideas Virtual Masterclass

Testing Business Ideas Virtual Masterclass

Discover and apply our latest thinking, trade secrets, tools and processes.

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